Dennis Scully: From our headquarters in New York City, this is Business of Home. I'm your host, Dennis Scully. Every week, I'll be talking to leaders and innovators from all corners of the home industry. I hope you'll join me.
Dennis Scully: We'd like to thank our friends at Fuigo for sponsoring this episode. In case you're unfamiliar or have been living under a coffee table, hey, we don't blame you. Fuigo is the industry's most comprehensive project management software for design professionals. Meticulously developed alongside designers like you, Fuigo is tailored to the way you work and built to foster your success. Learn more at fuigo.com. That's F-U-I-G-O.com. And now, on with the show.
Dennis Scully: My guest this week is Tyler Hays. Tyler is the founder, lead, creative guy at BDDW. Tyler, how would you describe your role and tell everyone what BDDW is for those that might not be familiar. It's a big question.
Tyler Hays: That's a big question. I'm the designer and engineer and creative director of pretty much everything that happens right here.
Dennis Scully: Here in this sort of wonder emporium, right. It is BDDW.
Tyler Hays: In this wonder emporium. My little world of ... BDDW itself is more of the furniture company that I started 20 years ago, and has branched out into ceramics and clothing and other interests and hobbies of mine, and then it had spur of a business called M. Crow, that is a completely different kind of concept but very much related.
Dennis Scully: I want to take us through the start of the business, but I feel like we have to start with where you grew up so that we can get a sense of what your early life was like. Tell us about your hometown.
Tyler Hays: My hometown is Joseph, Oregon. It's a town of still about 1,000 people. It doesn't change much. In northeastern corner of Oregon, high mountain valley. One of the most remote parts of America, and I always qualify remote as how far from a chain store or a stoplight.
Dennis Scully: Okay, and how far were you from a chain store or a stoplight?
Tyler Hays: Well, we had one grocery store, the main grocery store in town, except for that you had to drive an hour and a half to a stoplight or to buy clothes at a GAP or a Walmart et cetera. We still don't have a Walmart. It's hour and 45 minutes to a Walmart so that's, in America that's [stemoral 00:02:43].
Dennis Scully: More than American's want to travel that's for sure, right?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, exactly. It's really remote, and especially in the '70s and '80s when I grew up there. It was very remote before the internet and what not. It's a small logging town, then they shut the logging mill when I was a little kid and really crappy economy. Beautiful place, one of the most beautiful places in America but stays remote and undiscovered because of its distance. There's no airport. There's a tiny airport, but there's no-
Dennis Scully: Okay. There's nothing drawing people there even today?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, for the economy, no but there's tourism, people that ... and there has been some ranchers that have sold et cetera to California and stuff, but even then it's not like banned or something right that's easily accessible by airport, so most people stay away.
Dennis Scully: What was dad doing? You mentioned the logging kind of stopped [crosstalk 00:03:44].
Tyler Hays: My dad, he lettered, signed trucks, I mean logging trucks. He was a sign painter and lettered logging trucks and did all the signs in the town, him and another guy, did all the signs in the town, which was enough to feed a family of two, and we had a family five. It was a tough industry up there when I grew up. I wasn't the poorest kid in town and that still made me, there was kids who, if they didn't get an elk, they didn't eat well that winter in the '70s especially, hunting an elk. Hunting, for those listeners that don't know.
Dennis Scully: Most of our listeners out there don't hunt elk but so that's a good reference.
Tyler Hays: When I say they didn't get an elk, didn't fill their freezer with meat. And my-
Dennis Scully: Did you grow up [crosstalk 00:04:29].
Tyler Hays: No, we didn't. My parents had a little donut shop/sandwich shop in town, not a restaurant per se. We just did sandwiches and like a bakery I guess, and it only did lunches. We got our meat from the delivery truck and because we got the restaurant prices, so it was not worth going hunting. My dad grew up hunting and I didn't. I did grow up hunting but not as much, not filling the freezer. I did run, grew up running a trap line, skinning raccoons and [crosstalk 00:04:56].
Dennis Scully: Yes, so tell me what a trap line is, again for our many listeners who might not be familiar with a trap line.
Tyler Hays: Setting traps, leg hold traps and selling fur at the fur market basically. Not proud of it.
Dennis Scully: No, so you were catching [crosstalk 00:05:10] mink and raccoon and then you'd sell them for their fur, okay.
Tyler Hays: Oh, yeah. Mink and raccoon, and skin them and go to the fur market and sell them in the spring.
Dennis Scully: Was that something that would like come to town? How far was the fur market that [crosstalk 00:05:24]?
Tyler Hays: We would have to drive to the ... I only did it once, actually sold them. I would usually sell them to a buddy who'd go, but we did go once.
Dennis Scully: He'd go for you, okay. Got it.
Tyler Hays: It was a two hour drive to Lewiston, Idaho, and yeah, just take him to the auction and I had my measly like six hides that would get auctioned off and I usually did them wrong so, but all the old trapper saw it was charming.
Dennis Scully: I'm sure. I'm sure, they did. Mom was a handy crafty [crosstalk 00:05:47].
Tyler Hays: My mom's super handy crafty. My dad is a resigned painters, so he's graphically talented, but I really think I got most of my talents from my mother who, doesn't necessarily draw well, but she can sew a garment. She can recover a couch. She can refinish a piece of furniture, strip it down. She's got amazing skill, like I have her so she can fix any zipper and I have that same, you know, just get a key to work in a lock. She has a magic kind of hands that I inherited from her and my dad has a good graphic eye.
Dennis Scully: You've got parts of both of their strengths.
Tyler Hays: Yes, exactly. Yeah, they're both artistic in different way. My mom carves like these little apple dolls, and makes dolls that are all amazing.
Dennis Scully: Oh, really?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, super crafty.
Dennis Scully: Well, and you were a sewer from an early age, it sounds like.
Tyler Hays: I did. I wasn't a great sewer, but for my fifth birthday, my mom's mother, my grandma gave me an old Singer sewing machine when I was five, and I was into it. Loved it. Yeah, I would sit, sew next to her because she's so, it's the early '70s, and she sewed not all my dad's clothing or anything, but she'd sew stuff for the cover, sheets, pillows, whatever would just to save money. We weren't like shoeless and poor, but we were pretty broke and every dollar mattered and she would make stuff as much as we could. My dad would plumb and do electrical and whatever, just like everybody back in the early America did, yeah and the rural American, everyone [crosstalk 00:07:17] how to do that stuff.
Dennis Scully: Everybody sort of did a lot of fix for the touch, sure. Absolutely. When did you finally decide it was time to leave Oregon?
Tyler Hays: In high school, I found [inaudible 00:07:27] ... I became like a early high school, kind of back into this new wave punk rock kind of guy.
Dennis Scully: Okay. So, music [crosstalk 00:07:34].
Tyler Hays: Music buddies where I found that, I don't know how we found it in the middle of nowhere without internet and everything, but I think we met some kids that came up because it was kind of a small tourist campground, and we became obsessed with punk rock. We were wearing eyeliner. I became like kind of a suicidal punk rock kid. A little messed up, really nice kid, but I was a ...
Dennis Scully: You were a little messed up?
Tyler Hays: I was a little messed up, yeah. I was ...
Dennis Scully: You can tell me, it's ...
Tyler Hays: I was ... You can tell me.
Dennis Scully: Sure, yeah. No judgment here.
Tyler Hays: I got into music scene. We started the little band and we all kind of left home. So, I left home a little early.
Dennis Scully: Oh, so that was your ticket out was [crosstalk 00:08:14].
Tyler Hays: It was my ticket out. Told mom and dad where I was going. I didn't leave them, but I ran away basically, I was headed to wherever and then I ended up finishing high school in Portland.
Dennis Scully: In Portland? Oh, okay.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. A friend's family took me in and did that. I played ... music was kind of my main thing, crappy, I was like a musician in the northwest music scene and kind of in the thick of that, saw the whole thing starting in.
Dennis Scully: What instrument were you playing?
Tyler Hays: I played guitar and sing, and so all my buddies did that and so we ended up in that whole scene from Portland, Seattle and ... Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Oregon where's where that whole Nirvana that everybody ... that whole thing was Seattle and all that Northwest music scene.
Dennis Scully: The whole [gran 00:09:00] scene.
Tyler Hays: The gran scene, yes. I was right in the thick of that whole, starting into that thing so that's where I got out, went to, we don't have two hours, but I moved to Boston for a little bit, I worked in a warehouse so it was kind of like I didn't have a lot of direction as a youth. I wound up going to school, started in theater, had a community college near University of Oregon, where all my friends went to college, and just because I was always in the creative everything, just thought I would try that for a while. Fast forward, 10 years of college, I end up at the university doing some computer, physics, a little bit of architecture, a little bit of bounce around kind of like I do now. I still was just-
Dennis Scully: You're still trying to figure out what you want to do when you grow up, it sounds like.
Tyler Hays: ... trying to figure out what I want to do, yeah. I tried to become a chef for a minute, thought about going to law school for a minute, thought about everything really.
Dennis Scully: The serious pursuits at one point, you really thought you might be an architect right and you?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, there was a point where I thought I would be an artist, an architect, a lawyer, a chef or, I was narrowing it down.
Dennis Scully: You were narrowing it down.
Tyler Hays: I realized I'm too ADD to be a lawyer and actually study enough to pass anything, same as an architect. So, I thought I would do music. We did that. I did that. Yeah, I don't know. That's [crosstalk 00:10:19] to figure out. I don't have any answer for that for ... So, furniture was kind of the last thing on my list.
Dennis Scully: Well, that's the funny thing. Furniture was last on your list and yet that ended up being your claim to fame. So, let's talk about you get to New York. Tell me when you finally sort of get to New York and what you're doing when you get-
Tyler Hays: I started painting, that's when I found art and painting. I still see that's as kind of my main thing, and that I've consistently done stayed focused on, sculpture and painting, a little more just out there and I have to talk to anybody about it. But for a job, I ended up getting a solo show contract while I was still in college, wasn't a big deal at all, [crosstalk 00:10:54] when you're in school, it's like, and your professors don't have that. I had a gallery in Portland, Oregon, saw my work and loved it. Wanted to show it, and gave me a contract. So I was like a little freaked out by it.
Tyler Hays: So, I decided I had a couple of shows and did that, and I was like actually selling work and that kind of freaked me out because I didn't really want to do something. I think I really just wanted to bounce around. So I felt trapped. So, I decided to move in New York and get my ass kicked, and be a depressed bartender. That was my plan.
Dennis Scully: That's what you saw in New York would be for you?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, It'd be just, grow old and die as a bartender, like Billie Joe's song or something like that. So, that's why I moved to New York. I had a couple of friends that had moved out to New York and I had lived in Italy for a little bit, long story. I want to spare you all the details. But ...
Dennis Scully: You were just a wanderer.
Tyler Hays: I was a little bit of a wanderer, in my head at least, I didn't have a plan or ever have a real goal.
Dennis Scully: So, you came to New York, you had an art show, and you had some bartending skills?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, I got to New York and I started working at a job site for an architect friend of mine, and I've always been good at building stuff. I just never thought it should be my ... if I'm going to go to college, but I'm like, I started doing that and I actually had built furniture before this as well. So, I had those skills but I wasn't like it was gonna be my career.
Dennis Scully: But you knew you could do that.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. I always knew I could just build since I was a little kid I was always like, "I could build anything," building with materials, I understood it and learned it without reading the book kind of thing. But I started on a job site here and saw the world of my base home basically because when I grew up, you weren't taught that that's an industry. But that idea from renovating, the designing, the textures, the ... Yeah all that stuff.
Tyler Hays: So, I'd be on a job site learning to be an electrician or whatever, and some guys delivering a piece of furniture from ... I still remember the store up here, and I was like, "God, that's amazing kind of. It's kind of ugly, but how much was that?" And somebody said, "That was $2,000." The guys covered in drywall dust, me being one of them, and I was like, "Are you kidding me?"
Dennis Scully: I can make it.
Tyler Hays: Yeah, "I could make 10 of those a yeah. Who needs to do this?" Kind of, that's many scenarios like that. But that one actually happened. I just seen it I was like, "I do furniture, I can do that. I should get a shop." I had already gotten a space. It was my big painting studio. So, I moved to Williamsburg or Greenpoint early 90s before it was kind of [crosstalk 00:13:14].
Dennis Scully: Back before Greenplant was Greenpoint.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. I had this huge space that I could have ... a giant space and I could add a wood shop but I had this giant studio and was dirt cheap, it was literally caving in, I could see the ... I had to put ... Long story, great stories but I renovating this place.
Dennis Scully: Good times and [crosstalk 00:13:29] said almost collapsed on his head.
Tyler Hays: That's why I got it cheap. The roof was caving in and I told the owner I could fix it. So, you could literally see daylight through the roof for a part of it, then I was like, "I'll fix it, I'll get a cheap ..." And I didn't. Anyway so I'm like, "Oh, I should get tools together," and I had another buddy that I built stuff with in college, and we made ... before the internet and cell phones we had to find a day and we talked, and I got him to drop out of college. He moved out and we started doing the wood shop thing.
Dennis Scully: So you started doing a wood shop thing, meaning? So what? So, you started sort of making furniture?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, pretty much. Renovating stuff or cutting boards for people whatever. I knew a couple of architects in the city in the early '90s, there wasn't a ton of stuff going on here. I became like the go to guy because I had good design skills and I could like do a finished sample or understood what smooth wood meant, but there's just really no place to go. A couple different architecture studios found me, and I was just kind of swamped with work doing all kinds of stuff.
Dennis Scully: So, you and your buddy that you talked out of college getting his degree?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, exactly. And then over the years just met a couple more people, a couple of more people, and just found there was a lot of people, this whole Maker Movement thing is about people getting like out of touch with their skills, and there is weirdoes like myself out there that were just want to touch things and make things. Once that word gets out, it's like, "There's this guy out there. You can get a ..." Because I was looking for a shop to work in, I couldn't find one. So I decided to start one. Anyways, sorry.
Dennis Scully: No. And that's just where I wanted to go. Because, I think to many people, you were, if not the father of the Maker Movement, you were certainly an uncle of the maker movement.
Tyler Hays: I was always an uncle, for sure. There was a handful of people out there making stuff before me that I didn't know about necessarily, but [crosstalk 00:15:32] aspiring people. But in this era, at least. Pre George Nakashima or post to that.
Dennis Scully: So, this was sort of the mid 1990s, right?
Tyler Hays: Yeah. 1994 I moved to New York, and people doing fine woodworking and design sense, at least my design sense wasn't out there that I knew. Come to find out there was a handful of other people during these things around, but yeah, we look back that the buddies that I'm still with me, we kind of started that a little bit. Nobody else doing it, we were doing it.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. And I think there was very much that impression that you were a starter of that movement. So, when did the shop at Rivington come into being?
Tyler Hays: That was in late '90s. I got it really cheap from the landlord because the space had caved in. I have a history that.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. You have this thing for damning places.
Tyler Hays: And the plumbing from upstairs leak, he said if you can fix the plumbing upstairs, you can rent this place cheap. So, I got a long lease and we shoveled all the needles and condoms out of the building in the alleyway. That was 1998 I think, two or three years before 911. So, we had that space open for two years. So, we took a year or two to renovate it because we were broke. We rented the space and then we were doing construction jobs and furniture jobs on the side. We couldn't really afford to renovate it.
Tyler Hays: So, we finally scraped together the money to do that, and I had about three or four, we're pretty much a design build construction company at that point. I was a scrappy contractor that knew how to design stuff. People [crosstalk 00:17:13] to me and get a really good deal on ... we make them really beautiful spaces.
Dennis Scully: So, that's really what you were doing to earn money [crosstalk 00:17:18].
Tyler Hays: Pretty much that was the design build or just build. We were doing demo jobs and whatever it took. I have business cards from staples back in the day. We had to walk in and fill out the little blocks that said BDDW Construction. So, we were dirt bags just ...
Dennis Scully: And what was BDDW?
Tyler Hays: On the chimney of my building there was EDDW, but from my advantage point, it looked like a B. You couldn't see it from anywhere else in the block, it was at a deep Greenpoint. Few years later, I moved my shop to the next building next door, and I could see the chimney better when I first setup and I was like, "Wait, that's an E." But I'd already had BDDW construction business cards made, and I paid $25 to have those made, and I was like, "We can't change it."
Dennis Scully: Certainly I'm not going to spend that money again.
Tyler Hays: What people forget, you can't Google stuff back, it was before the internet.
Dennis Scully: I love that you keep making it sound so prehistoric. "This was the late 1990s, you don't understand, there wasn't technology. We were making things with our hands." So, you opened up that shop, you cleared away all the condoms and needles and opened up that shop. You saved enough money to finally open. What did you show in that shop originally?
Tyler Hays: Some of the stuff that I do now by the end was designed then. Just really simple square ... the furniture I do now, like an oil finish was unheard of back then strangely. You were touching plastic and not the woods. Everything felt warm instead of cool just because of the just the physics of it. It would just feel different. So, we're just like, "Let's make stuff where you can touch oil in your wood rather than ... and a couple of the slab tables I had, I could only afford the small ones.
Tyler Hays: It was just like five or six pieces of furniture. Pretty laughably, I did better photography, I think than the furniture. I would make angles look kind of dreamy and stuff, and the quality was like, because it was very simple to make, and our tools were very limited, and we didn't have ... I knew what I wanted to see. But I didn't have the tooling or the money to do it. But we're making a go of it, and I was trying to figure out how I fit into the world still.
Tyler Hays: When we first opened that store, we had a recording studio still, and you could still call me, and I'd repair your boiler.
Dennis Scully: So, many services that you could provide.
Tyler Hays: We did. We almost became a joke to where we had a band that was BDDW band, and we were just starting to talk to people then me falling out with one of my buddy partners with the music stuff. We're gonna be like, "The BDDW, you could rent us to play at your wedding or we can make you furniture, we could repair your boiler." It was almost a joke. We're going to also do open mic and heavy metal nights.
Dennis Scully: So, you still have this studio, and you were on call to repair boilers, and you had this shop where you were showing some of the furniture you were making in Greenpoint. Right? And then 911 came ...
Tyler Hays: We were showing the furniture on Redington Street. Sorry.
Dennis Scully: You were showing the furniture on Redington, and then ...
Tyler Hays: I couldn't make a go of it. We were still doing the renovations and stuff like that, because that's where the money was, and if you have employees in a payroll and a business, it's like a whole new ... I had to learn it all the hard way. But it's like a whole different thing, and no one was funding us. We made every penny and paid our people, and it was never easy.
Tyler Hays: I couldn't sell enough stuff on Redington Street back then. It would basically to make it ... we'd never hit your bottom line. So, it was just a crisis all the time around. We would sell stuff and plenty of it to great people, but just never enough to make it not enormously stressful. So, we were doing jobs in the side. Still renovate, design build renovations.
Dennis Scully: Whatever you had to do to sort of fund the operation.
Tyler Hays: Whatever we had to do to survive, you bet. And then I finally decided, this is killing me, someone's got to give. We either need to go all in, I need to go all in on this and really ... so let's get it. I need to get a bigger show room because we're on the other side of the bar, [Leader 00:21:19] was just getting cool. So, people were barely coming down there, and then you'd have to make another leap across the bar or forget about it.
Tyler Hays: And the library was cool. We were like in this little no man's land, and I couldn't display enough furniture, it just wasn't working. So, I decided to scrape all my pennies together and, which were very few, and a buddy loaned me some money. Not enough, which was a mistake, and got this space across the street which was only-
Dennis Scully: The half [crosstalk 00:21:46] space.
Tyler Hays: Yep. And we signed the lease. I put down a huge deposit because when you get into big commercial spaces, deposits are huge, and that was the biggest debt, was just the deposit and went to make a go, we opened up and a week after I signed the lease and put the deposit down, 911 hit and this was a ghost town down here. I mean, it was like for months. So, that was a struggle. It was kind of interesting because we had our opening Valentine's Day after 911, we put out an email, our mailing list to 500 people.
Tyler Hays: We had a decent little mailing list, but if you're around back then, wasn't any openings. It's like nothing to compete with. So, we had this like, 3,000 people showed up or something. It was like an enormous amount of people, it's like the only thing going on in town. People are like, "Somebody opened a furniture store downtown? I got to see this." So, we had all these people come down, and we really couldn't even afford to build in a furniture.
Tyler Hays: We weren't dying. But it was like you walked in, it was like this super huge, beautiful space with like 12 pieces of furniture, and I was just thinking there's just no way this is going to work, but it did. I mean, it wasn't easy.
Dennis Scully: So, eventually it did. At that time, were you showing sort of the live edge tables that you-
Tyler Hays: Yeah. I kind of had to narrow down my focus, for the first time in my life, and narrow down a few different things I wanted to show that I could do, and that being one of them, then using that same technique and a few different pieces and trying to keep it clean and not too crafty and just like really .. the stuff that I'd seen in my head that I wanted to do, and I did invest in a few pieces, and actually sat down I think in about three days after we finished the renovation, I panicked, we went to the shop and designed the, I think, some of most classic pieces in like three days.
Tyler Hays: Like credenza, captain's mirror, tripod lamp, the slap table, the wishbone base all, that was just like yes, we got to get some crap in here. So, we did it, and we built it, and then we got it in there, and opened up. And yeah, people didn't buy enough to stay in business at all. We struggled-
Dennis Scully: You struggled for a long time. People think you were an overnight success. But really, it was years.
Tyler Hays: Oh my God. I always hear the rumor that he's ... I have my been good friends still ask me like, "So, you made your money in?" And I say like, "Furniture."
Dennis Scully: They think you had some sort of [crosstalk 00:24:17].
Tyler Hays: Yeah. Like I made my money in ... sold my dad's winery or something. A lot of people do and then they go plow somewhere or something. I'm like, "No, we did it." I'm very proud of it. But we had no real ... we had to make it and make it work and it was tough man. It was not easy. I think I still lived in my shop. When I first opened this place, I still lived in the shop. It was like we were dedicated and obsessed with pouring every single thing into it.
Tyler Hays: I installed the hinges on those doors, and welded the skylight, and poured the concrete, and I obviously had some helpers, but we renovated that place soup to nuts, and the guys in the shop were killing it back then and still now. Yeah, we built everything in there, everything. Looking back, I'm like I have no idea what I was thinking, I was like, I must have been insane because I finished that place, and like who opens a 7000 square foot shop with no real furniture to put in just a bunch of hopes and dreams.
Tyler Hays: But yeah, it wasn't an overnight success. I've heard people say, I heard that I was a trust fund kid or where did he get his money and I'm like, didn't have any and [crosstalk 00:25:25] to that. And you know, after 911, all over the city landlords were like, "Please just stay, what do we got to do?" He worked with me on ... Everybody was behind the rent, unless you had the trust fund. But we're like, "We're not gonna leave, you can't rent the place."
Tyler Hays: So, there was a good six months of just how, it was ... we almost threw in the towel every other minute, and then we decide not to, it was stressful.
Dennis Scully: I'm sure, and how many people did you have working with you at the time?
Tyler Hays: I think 15, 20. Enough that they're crushing payroll.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. So, it was a big staff to have to carry on your back.
Tyler Hays: That's what people never think, until you have a payroll, you don't have a business. I mean, you might have a business, but it's not a ... you know many real stress until you're trying to write that paycheck and then you'll be-
Dennis Scully: 'Til you're responsible for everyone's job.
Tyler Hays: And then looking and seeing what's left over after that as well, and so my employees weren't making more money than me at that time.
Dennis Scully: So, can you remember when it really started to turn, when the business really started to get some traction?
Tyler Hays: People always ask me that and there's never a point. I still feel like I can [crosstalk 00:26:26], you turn around one day, and you can like breath, and you're like, "I don't know what happened." It wasn't really a point, there was definitely a time when I bought a bicycle and got health insurance for me and my employees.
Dennis Scully: Okay. So, that was a major turning point.
Tyler Hays: That was after we'd been open for three or four years, 911 and economy recovered right. But it wasn't like, you think ... when I started learning about business and what other people were doing, we started selling millions of dollars with the furniture, and I still wasn't making a living I could eat, and I lived fine, but not really. I mean, I lived in a ...
Dennis Scully: So, is that right? So even when the business started to do millions of dollars in revenue, it was still just sort of breaking even or?
Tyler Hays: Pretty much. Oh, yeah. Not even breaking even half the time. It was just because I wasn't paying myself and yeah, it was tough. It wasn't able to afford its own needs. I guess it was paying for itself. But that's it. It wasn't like if I had investors, they would have been very unhappy.
Dennis Scully: It wasn't throwing off good returns.
Tyler Hays: It wasn't [crosstalk 00:27:27] in security or any kind of like, we couldn't miss the beat. Otherwise, we were in ... payroll every time, it was tough.
Dennis Scully: You were sweating that every time.
Tyler Hays: And then we came like it was a constant sweat, and I like pain. So we got used to it, but it was never like, "This is easy, and we're just making money, and I can go on vacation." I don't think I took a vacation. I finally took a vacation, and the guys I started with, I've had different partners along the way, come and gone in different forms, but it was always your vacations or weddings and funerals. That was it. You either do a wedding or you go on a funeral. You don't miss those and those were vacations and it was seven days a week.
Tyler Hays: Finally after ... we were five million a year before I took a vacation, and got health insurance and bought a bicycle, off Craig's list, used.
Dennis Scully: I was surprised you didn't make a bike.
Tyler Hays: Or even started to have some furniture because if we had furniture, it's like you'd have to sell it. We weren't ...
Dennis Scully: You'd have to sell your own stuff if somebody wanted-
Tyler Hays: Well, if it was around, we put on the showroom and sell it, I wouldn't have this nice ... people was like, "I thought your house would be nicer." To meet some girl and we're going like, "No, I'm a bum."
Dennis Scully: "No, I'm practically homeless just trying to make it over five million dollar ..."
Tyler Hays: Because my costs are high, my margins are actually-
Dennis Scully: So, let's talk about that for a second. Because, so one of the things that was always somewhat of an obstacle for many people with your furniture was that a beautiful dining table would be 60, $70,000, and still is. Right?
Tyler Hays: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: I mean more. So, what makes that table $65,000?
Tyler Hays: I learned about business from ... somebody told me once about just charge what you guys fixing your ... because I was complaining have my car fixed. The guy was like, "Yeah, so 80 bucks an hour to fix your clutch and all this stuff," and I was like, "Wait a second, we're not charging that." So, my buddy's like, "Why don't we charge what he's charging?" And I was like, "All right, 80 bucks an hour."
Tyler Hays: So, I think we have a lot of machinery, now we're not much more than that, we're like you charge by the hour per machine and then you add that up and that's the cost of the piece. And we were just like, "Oh," just because you pay a guy back then 10 bucks an hour and [crosstalk 00:29:33] and look at the mechanic down the road. He's not driving a Lexus or a Mercedes, and he's charging 80 bucks an hour.
Tyler Hays: So, I'm like, "Oh, we got to at least charge." We still do that. Certain things we ended up charging more money because I didn't want to sell so much, and so there are bigger margins on certain pieces because I have 100 employees now. I love being an employer, don't get me wrong, but I didn't start out to be an employer, which is not easy. That's the hardest thing I've ever done is being employer.
Dennis Scully: Is being an employee.
Tyler Hays: That's the most stressful and heart wrenching ... that's the biggest trials even after you can make the payroll, it's a lot of lot of responsibility. So, I don't want to have 900 people working for me per se, because I think it saps my creativity, which is what I think I'm better at, making stuff. So, some of the times, we'd raise the prices on pieces just because I'm like, "We got to slow this down, we're-"
Dennis Scully: I didn't wanna have to make that.
Tyler Hays: Yeah, we were hiring people like in the growth and the pace of the growth was just not giving the best quality to my clients, and that was the main thing is like, "I'm gonna have to charge ... I'm gonna have to hire managers to do a worse job of things." And you start becoming that company where you just sub it out to delegate out to everybody.
Dennis Scully: Sure, and you never wanted to do that.
Tyler Hays: I mean I wanted just wouldn't work if I could charge that much and delegate it out and go on vacations, I would do it gladly. Nowadays, that was talking historically. But nowadays I pretty much have great guys I grew up with that are still with me, and they do stuff perfectly, and I don't see every piece of furniture that goes out the door by any means. I still do all the design and engineering of pieces, or I've trained people to do exactly what I want.
Dennis Scully: So, there's a formula for the pieces that you love the most and guys to replicate that now.
Tyler Hays: Yeah, and I have great ... over the years I've now been able hire people like in ceramics. John that does ceramics, runs the ceramics department. He's a better ceramicist than I am. He knows more about the technology, more about whatever, and he just does it all day. My hands are getting soft, so I don't do it all. Even the painting, it's like I do ... he started doing the paintings, and the tiles and the stuff.
Tyler Hays: But, I've got one, two, three, at least three people now painting, trained to do what I do, and then they're great at certain things, and they add what they do, and then we go, "Oh, you do that, we do ..." Then some of then, I just let them go. So, I paint 10%.
Dennis Scully: We're going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsor, but we'll be right back. To stand out in this crowded industry, you need more than a love of design. You need strategy, sales, marketing, and other things they don't teach you in design school. This episode is brought to you by Fuigo whose mission is to empower the design trade. Fuigo believes that business and art can and must coexist, and they've built a platform to make that happen. Learn more at fuigo.com. And now back to the show.
Dennis Scully: So, we should explain for people that despite you not remembering the moment at which the business [crosstalk 00:32:41].
Tyler Hays: Yeah. When did it take off?
Dennis Scully: The business has grown from the shop on Crosby street, which was so famous for dining tables in the beginning and that beautiful cabinets that you used to make and still make, and as you said, the lamps that you make. But eventually, you just started doing whatever you wanted, right?
Tyler Hays: Kind of. I started being able to branch out strategically doing some of the things I've always wanted to do.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. So, tell me about that. Tell me about the steps that you were able to take [crosstalk 00:33:13].
Tyler Hays: Well, if the ceramics and stuff like and the clothing?
Dennis Scully: Yeah, tell me about that.
Tyler Hays: I think about 10 years ago, it started to actually function to where I didn't have to go to work every day. I had people trained and we were clientele, became a business, was above the bottom line and we were rolling. In some days when I don't go to work, I started taking time off in the summers. I had a son is where I had [crosstalk 00:33:33], and family and I've always wanted that.
Tyler Hays: So, I started taking time off in the summers and realized we make a little more money when I'm not around, because I have a lot of like, I'm always trying to come up with creative ideas.
Dennis Scully: So, you're spending money and so we actually make more money when you're [crosstalk 00:33:46].
Tyler Hays: Yeah, well I'm always like, "Let's try this new thing," but if I back off, they actually catch up. So, it became a formula of just like delegating, learning how to run a company and a business and delegation and all those things.
Dennis Scully: And BDDW, we should point out for people that might not be familiar started to develop a very elite clientele. You got a lot of celebrities that loved your product, you had a lot of big important people who became fans of yours.
Tyler Hays: I did, very much. We never drop names, but it's like a who's who list.
Dennis Scully: So, who's who list we can't say on the air, but wow.
Tyler Hays: Well, I just don't like to abuse that. But it's like all my heroes except for, I never got David Bowie as a client.
Dennis Scully: Oh, that's too bad, before he passed away?
Tyler Hays: Yeah. But all my other icons I've been able to-
Dennis Scully: Okay. There were some rock icon I know and become fans and ...
Tyler Hays: Presidents and the families of the last few regimes, and just crazy list of people.
Dennis Scully: So, people discovered you and saw how special the product was that you've been making all these years and jumped on board. So, that's really what started driving the business, right?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, pretty much, for sure. I was prepared to make, actually open the first showroom, the big one here, prepared to make furniture for the people. But then 911 hit, and the only people that were buying were the upper percent of wealth. So, it was kind of a blessing in disguise for me because people would come in and buy the $15,000 bed that had all the intricacies that I thought was just the showpiece kind of thing. Then people would come in and buy the $1,500 veneer bed.
Tyler Hays: And I was like, "What? We sold two of those, and two of the slab tables, and two and no one was buying my ... I was trying to make this effort if we go into production and we build 20 of these things, we can charge $1,500 dollars, and I was trying that. Thank God I didn't have to, and somebody was able to ... allowed us to tap into our deepest talents basically, mine and then the guys that worked for me with their ...
Tyler Hays: Guys that can ... better hands than me on a lot of stuff and just focus more than anything just to get crazy things built. And it was heaven in a way and that was 911. So, for me that's self-defining. I gotta pay to build to my nth degree of talents, and that was a huge blessing for sure.
Dennis Scully: And when did the facility in Philadelphia come into play?
Tyler Hays: Long story, but the short story is, I was in Brooklyn forever, and Greenpoint, and we'd move shop a couple times, getting bigger, growing. But once I realized this is going to work and I can have health insurance, and I have a plan, I have 15 or 20 employees that are ... one of my guys had a kid, and he wasn't thinking, "I've got to go, see you guys." He was like banking on this work and I said, we got to make this work, I gotta take this seriously. And I also had real clients and a real commitments, and so we started looking outside of the city. I tried to upstate for a while, I said short answer didn't I?
Dennis Scully: As if that's possible.
Tyler Hays: I tried upstate for a while, that didn't work. And then I really realized I'm moving people's lives, it was a really intense time to try and manage that, but I accidentally discovered Philly just looking on, there was a thing on, I think it was MapQuest, some new, I think it's a real estate website that doesn't exist anymore. You could put a circle around an area, and all the industrial buildings would come up.
Tyler Hays: And this building came up in Philly that was like a free, big, beautiful, ugly brick building, and I turned to the person next to me and was like, "Where's Philly? What is that like six hours away?" I thought it was a six hour drive from New York.
Dennis Scully: Turns out it's only a couple of hours.
Tyler Hays: Not even, it was like I put on mark, was an hour and 20 minutes from my show room to that building. I got in the car, I drove down, I looked at the building. I think it was the same day or it was the next ... no, Sunday the next morning. I said, "Fuck it, I'm going on to Philly." I call the guy on the way, I just sat there for [inaudible 00:37:58].
Dennis Scully: That's quite all right.
Tyler Hays: FCC is coming in, right? I don't know it's a podcast.
Dennis Scully: Show might get shut down.
Tyler Hays: So, we got down to ... I got to Philly like an hour and 10 minutes because it was Sunday morning, [inaudible 00:38:10] is like, "Guys, I'd like to drive fast to that building." I looked down at the broken memory there. I made an offer. No, I went and found a pub with a beer, made an offer. Like a cool bar. I was like, "There's a cool bar in this town?" I was like calling my friends, and I was like, "I discovered this place.",
Dennis Scully: Philadelphia. Have you ever heard of it?
Tyler Hays: Philadelphia. I mean, honestly, it's like I'd never people known in back then in New York, because New York was still empty, parts of it. And we hadn't really ... I was just a dumb New Yorker. I mean, I'm from Oregon, but I just never-
Dennis Scully: I was gonna say call yourself a New Yorker.
Tyler Hays: And I was like it's like Detroit, but it's commutable. I have friends who live in LA that commute an hour to work. It's commutable, king of. Anyway, so we moved down, it was more like a four day span, but I made it happen. I just went down, this is amazing, this is crazy and beautiful, big ugly city-
Dennis Scully: And it's a giant space that you have.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. We've moved twice since and again. We have more space and work is getting ... my friends come down there like, "Are you kidding us again? This is only a third of what the buildings that we have down there." So we had a huge base hundreds of thousands of square feet. We moved from a 20,000 square foot shop in Brooklyn to 120,000 square foot building, and we outgrew that. We were able to expand, and get the right tooling, and just do crazy upgrades to stuff that was just so exciting.
Tyler Hays: I mean, I've never been so excited about ... even with the 2008 crash which was brutal, creatively it was just like, "Oh my God we can as a company, and the things we could do that were ... the technologies we embraced and the space and what also my employees could do with a paycheck in Philly versus here," where it was like just stressful.
Dennis Scully: So, a bunch of the employees were willing to come down [crosstalk 00:39:51].
Tyler Hays: Almost all. Everybody but two that I was hoping would come, and then a couple of people didn't come that we didn't want to keep necessarily. But yeah, all my main people came.
Dennis Scully: That's great.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. There was like 15 or 20 that move down. Something like that. We're pretty tiny back then. But yeah. Then we just, man, it was like a whole different thing. I didn't realize how much space was constricting everything I was doing. I mean, people moved to New York to be creative back when lofts were available. Spaces were like inspiring, and then it's like you're trying to be ... we had a big shop for ... we were one of the big guys in Brooklyn, but it was like, "I don't know how we did it."
Tyler Hays: We literally work, I think we have about 300,000 square feet, we have 50,000 square feet just empty just in case we need it just to put stuff. Yeah, just to put if trucks come in. I collect machinery and weird stuff, but now it's just for just unbridled creativity system. We have a guild goat farm. We have a giant garden, we have a-
Dennis Scully: Right. So, let's go through that. So, we've got a goat farm. We've got a brewery right.
Tyler Hays: That's an Oregon.
Dennis Scully: That's in Oregon. So, we've got this, tell us about this M.Crow company that you've acquired.
Tyler Hays: So, the short story which is will sound long. Where I grew up in this little town on the way out of the valley. There's this little smallest town Lasteen, beautiful general store that was in operation for over 100 years. My great, great grandparents homesteaded that valley as well. So, they certainly shopped there, I don't have any record of that but they had to because there was no other place to ... it was the entrance to the valley. The Crow family are awesome, I didn't grow up knowing them well, but I would stop in and just places like this relic of history in the western ...
Tyler Hays: So, it was closing, long story short I ended up buying it to save. They were closing was like a beautiful general store in the middle of nowhere. I bought it to save it, and with this kind of epiphany of at the time my life where I couldn't really afford to do like buy a boat or yacht or anything, but I would like I could live and I could do something nice with my money as well as start to think about all my hobbies which I was always into clothing and cooking, and all these other things that I never got to do.
Dennis Scully: So, all these careers that you almost pursued.
Tyler Hays: Exactly, yeah and so I was like, okay M.Crow is gonna be where I'm gonna just stuff all these stuff and it's going to be my Sears and Roebuck label, because I grew up, we had to order stuff out of the catalog and even looked at the mini bikes and the go karts and the tires and the shoes and the bra section and the ... so, it was like all that stuff in one label. I was like, "That's what I'm gonna do with M.Crow and figure out a way to keep it alive and hopefully, make a factory in my hometown and create jobs because it's a depressed economy." So, basically up there-
Dennis Scully: And is that what you've been able to do? Have you [crosstalk 00:42:35].
Tyler Hays: Yeah, I've got a few jobs now, we're still working on it. We're going, it's not easy, we've been up there five years and it's up and down. But we have a brewery, we have a ceramics, that's what this show room is. Is much for them M.Crow ceramics as the BDDW. We're trying to start a production ceramics business out of ... but it's going to be, it's a super ecological thing I've engineered with ... it's a wood fired, ceramics kill them outdoors, and the waste heat of that runs the brewery, and also creates bio chard to put back on our barley farms.
Tyler Hays: So, we have our own barley we grow and all these stuff. It's a long story, but it's really cool, the whole thing is like ...
Dennis Scully: So, the installation that we're sitting next to now, so this is all your ceramic tile that you've done and?
Tyler Hays: This is just the BDDW tile that is just a clay that I dig outside my studio in Philly, which is limited because it's right in the industrial by the railroad tracks, but we did clay there and make it. And then the M.Crow, actually the pot sitting in front are from clay from my hometown. Those are more of a production, not hand painted, meant to have a growth potential as a company.
Tyler Hays: And now the tiles are scattered around the front. We're not really normally open here yet, this place.
Dennis Scully: Right. And this is a fairly new space for you, yes?
Tyler Hays: Brand new. I just done my 50th birthday party in here two nights ago, and we're not even open yet. We just cleaned up and finished renovating.
Dennis Scully: Well, so and you said you just had your 50th birthday party, and how does that feel?
Tyler Hays: Awesome. So far it hasn't set in but, now I'm the happiest person I've ever met right now. My life is good, yeah.
Dennis Scully: Is that right?
Tyler Hays: Yes. No, super good. Life is good, I feel work is good.
Dennis Scully: It seems like you've really been set free to just sort of do all these different creative endeavors that-
Tyler Hays: I feel like I'm just almost, next year I'll be set free.
Dennis Scully: Almost. Okay.
Tyler Hays: This is all just stuff I had to do, but next year, the radio station is coming along. The more fun stuff that we're doing, yeah. But it's totally. I'm allowed to do something.
Dennis Scully: So, what's gonna happen when you're finally set free? What's holding you back? [crosstalk 00:44:46] a few more-
Tyler Hays: I'm still self-funded basically. We make a decent amount of profit on this stuff.
Dennis Scully: And is that gonna change, are you getting funding?
Tyler Hays: No. No plans to. I think about it sometimes, some things with the M.Crow business, I have bigger plans to replicate that idea and other rural communities and do that. I'm talking to few people about maybe how that would work, but I've never had an interest in big company stuff. But I love the concept of M.Crow, I've deliberately made it something that I could make into big company. BDDW, my secret plan which if I said won't be secret.
Dennis Scully: So, it cant be secret anymore, but I think you should share-
Tyler Hays: When I'm done I wanna shut the lights off and that's it, then it's over and not be this like sell it to somebody or whatever. There's been like ... but M.Crow is gonna be the thing where I can ... we're doing cutlery, all this type of production, a real American hand-made cutler, we're gonna do big tire factory, they do super ecological wood fire tires. Body care we're working, I do few little things. I'm a little bit of a chef, alchemist. I make like hair product and I get into herbal-
Dennis Scully: Your hair looks really nice. I didn't say. I mean I ...
Tyler Hays: Thank you. People see me buy good friends with them or what do they call them, herbalists?
Dennis Scully: Okay. Is that right.
Tyler Hays: I forge stuff in the woods and eat different things I probably shouldn't. I'm not an expert on it, but I'm obsessed with it. How about that? So, I'm always tasting everything in the woods doing the ... but I'm working on some different body care thing that are more about ...
Dennis Scully: And that also gonna be through the M.Crow.
Tyler Hays: That's the plan, yeah. So, I've made my own toothpaste, I've made my own sunscreen, I'm super interested in digging it myself and making it. So, all the stuff that I make. The body care products, we ... I have my own little bee farm. So, we can get the wax for my hair, I say my hair like-
Dennis Scully: I was gonna say as he waves his hair through his hand [crosstalk 00:46:41].
Tyler Hays: But all the stuff that goes in and the stuff we make [crosstalk 00:46:44].
Dennis Scully: Where are the beehives? So, where's that happening?
Tyler Hays: In Oregon. We actually have them in Philly too, but the stuff I use is in Oregon, we have 20 hives right now.
Dennis Scully: That's fantastic.
Tyler Hays: So, a little honey that comes out. And there's actually a little bit of honey in the hair product and we use that honey to make stuff in the brewery. But do re-forge out there, there's tons of crazy herbs and stuff out in the woods that you can pick and make out of it an extract the wild barks and the all kinds of stuff.
Dennis Scully: So, this is where your creativity is taking you now. It sounds like in a whole different direction.
Tyler Hays: A little bit.
Dennis Scully: So, you alluded to closing the door at BDDW, but not anytime soon.
Tyler Hays: Oh no. When I die.
Dennis Scully: When you pass away, I see. So you're not passing it on to someone else.
Tyler Hays: I don't wanna sell it. Technically now, it's a luxury brand. We've had interest from people wanting to buy us or whatever. Like no interest [crosstalk 00:47:38].
Dennis Scully: So, that's not appealing.
Tyler Hays: It's very fluttering.
Dennis Scully: Cashing out would not be appealing to you?
Tyler Hays: No. Well, maybe enough for sure so they'd have to reason but I would start another one called something who do exactly the same thing. But yeah, it'd be really sad to see somebody turn it into a perfume and blah blah blah, unless it was our perfume.
Dennis Scully: Eventually the business started to have its own momentum. Right? And you had a customer base, that became loyal and you were able to sell products regularly. How is it now? Is it a more challenging time or is it an easier time?
Tyler Hays: It's super easy now. If you're in a business and once you can pay your bills, everything is easy. It's retirement after that. So, I pay my bills and I make a living, and now I make a good living. Not crazy, not half of what people ... that's not-
Dennis Scully: People think you're really rich, that's not the case?
Tyler Hays: Always this crazy.
Dennis Scully: People always think you're so loaded.
Tyler Hays: Even my wife when she came to my house she was like, when we first started dating a few years ago, she was like, "Really, I thought you'd have ..." and I said, "No." She's like, "People think you're rich." No, I make a [crosstalk 00:48:46].
Dennis Scully: Exactly because you sell these really expensive dining tables people think you're like multi-millionaire.
Tyler Hays: At the end of the year, I actually finally studied like American manufacturers. I used to read those journals and listen to podcasts because I haven't listened to this one but, I used to be into that. We scored D in the profitability per employee of American manufacturers. Like an A, productivity per employee, and I was just like a dismal. We make nothing compared to-
Dennis Scully: Even when you learned to charge $80 an hour [crosstalk 00:49:15].
Tyler Hays: And that's why one of the things people ... the work is better because it's ... technically when you study is as a business, we're technically a factory outlet at half price. In the world where most places, they go to a factory, they pay $500 for a sofa, the designer sells it to the showroom for 1,000 and they double it as 2000. We never get that final doubling because I'm just a big factory. I don't charge for the ... we just basically it costs about what we send it to the show for and we double it. But most of other companies, if you go see a $10,000 thing, I can pick it apart and show you where it's like, "Really, this is ... ours would be 20," but ours is 10, and that's why they're choices, the weight of what we do.
Tyler Hays: Not in everything. But there's certain pieces that were like, the certain pieces we still make a great margin on and more than others. But some of them, we barely make any. These days, the last couple of years I've been really focusing and trying to make money at manufacturing, so I can do a better job with some of the things I'm interested in now, which is clothing and stuff because it is the way the real world works.
Tyler Hays: Because when you sell something for $50,000, you can make a mistake and accidentally, you can make a five percent profit margin and still got out to eat. But if you are doing that on your hundreds of items you make five percent, you're supposed to be ... your clothing, they double it, more than double it. So, that's the whole different mode of thinking if you want to sell hundreds of something.
Tyler Hays: And if I want to be a real ... the problem, the challenge for me which I love solving problems is, to be a real manufacturer of things, we should be making that for x and charging x which means if they sell more. So, how do I start a company where I can sell more? With BDDW, I'm not interested, I just want that to be like what I want to do. And then M.Crow is something where we can employ not me, but if I can develop a company that can employ millions of people, it won't be millions but I can make a difference in American manufacturing for real.
Tyler Hays: Because right now we're kinda a boutique, we get away with a lot because we charge enough in a small amount.
Dennis Scully: But that would be meaningful for you?
Tyler Hays: I think so. Anything put in front of me, when I was an electrician, I was like I just wanted to be the best electrician in the planet. Ant thing else ... So yeah, I want if I'm going to be an employer, and like I said, we have 80 people in the shop another 20 in payroll. That's a huge payroll.
Dennis Scully: It's become a huge company.
Tyler Hays: And it's just me, I don't have partners telling me what to do or anybody answering big solutions for me. It's just me.
Dennis Scully: Do you wish you had some partners?
Tyler Hays: No. Now that it works, no. The times that I have and it was necessary at certain stages of the business. I have actually. Technically I have a set of handful of people that I've given a little interest in the business that have ... so, it's not as lonely. It's not just me. But they don't have any real vote or say or anything. I always tell them proactively, if you guys just don't come in, you can win the vote, if they don't vote against me they can ...
Tyler Hays: So, I have people I talk to about it. But all the big problems and stuff because my business is hyper vertical, it's like everything's stacked up. I deal directly with the wood sources down to our own delivery company, our own everything, and our own service, our own ... it's really fragile. You can't really just stack that up and have a piece of a different vision. So, I have to be involved and have somebody that I work with directly on all that stuff daily.
Tyler Hays: I'll probably have 20 texts on my phone when we're done here. People ask some simple questions so we know we're on the same page about how we all work together. Because it's a really interesting business structure and not simple at all. And if I was hit by a car tomorrow, it's not necessarily the best structure as well for long time growth BDDW itself. But it's a hell a lot of fun, we make really beautiful stuff.
Dennis Scully: We make great stuff and we-
Tyler Hays: But I don't know that that's really a sustainable even. People ask me like, "How do I do what you do?" And like, "I." I'd rather do something that if I was gonna start out for security needs, I would do something at a lower market, maybe.
Dennis Scully: That's a great question. If you were starting it today, what's the business? If all you've learned from everything you've done? What would you go into today? Would it be as you say?
Tyler Hays: I wouldn't go into furniture.
Dennis Scully: You wouldn't go into furniture at all?
Tyler Hays: No. I learned that as well. Like, why do people ... it's a tough business. It's the space. I had a friend who does jewelry and they can put a million dollars in a little briefcase and go to a show lock it up. If I could go to trade show, it's track load of stuff. Everyone's got a back, your back goes out. Factories are dangerous and noisy and loud and it's just headaches. Clothing is great. We have our own little grommet studio, the machinery is cheap, it's so much easier. Yeah, so, I would go into something ... I don't know what I would do if I was turning over again. I wouldn't do furniture, I just would never get out of the [crosstalk 00:54:25].
Dennis Scully: Despite all the furniture [crosstalk 00:54:26] has given you over the years, you would never again. That's what a lot of restaurant owners, and I equate it in a lot of ways to owning a restaurant. A lot of restaurant owners tell me, "Oh my God, I would never do it again. If I'd known going in the hours and the craziness."
Tyler Hays: You have to have 10 restaurants to be able to make a damn good living out of it. You can have three and make a living, but if you have one, this is no way to make a ... Unless you're working 12 hours a day, you can make a crappy living, even if you're famous at it. I'd been in 20 magazines and people thought I was rich and I still couldn't afford health insurance back in the day, literally couldn't afford it. It was like ....
Dennis Scully: Took him years to be able to buy a bicycle.
Tyler Hays: I remember. I got about an $800 bicycle off Craigslist, and I was like, "I've arrived." And we were millions of dollars like six million dollars a year of furniture. I was put in magazines, was not easy. It was super fun. I'm sure I could have done it if I wasn't as obsessive, because I was always like, "It's got to be the quality," or I just wasn't interested in it. And furniture for me is like I'm a sculptor and an artists and all those things. You just do what you do, and you put the time into it and who cares.
Tyler Hays: So, to do the furniture second level or just like good furniture I was like, "I don't care about furniture that much. "I love what I do but I don't like ... I collect some old stuff usually most of it is just worn out or something not. I still dress like a bomb, even when I thought this is all my design.
Dennis Scully: I was gonna say this is all your clothing, when you say your dressing like a bomb, I mean ...
Tyler Hays: I know [crosstalk 00:55:53] I did everything, but it's just perfectly a bomb.
Dennis Scully: You look just right for the role. You're this artist, creator, genius. So, what next for you is really building this M.Crow business and BDDW as we know it might start to plateau a little bit?
Tyler Hays: I don't think it's gonna plateau. I'm gonna keep pushing. We allow growth and BDDW is built around the ... I have like my own weird art company formula for it that is like, if it's wanting to grow, we'll let it grow. We know try to grow, we're looking to take crazy good care of our good clients, people who once were our blacklist clients that are just certain kinds of [crosstalk 00:56:38].
Dennis Scully: Is that right? What does someone have to do to get blacklisted?
Tyler Hays: Just be unreasonable. We bend over backwards to make them happy, and we have the best service in the industry times five. We do it for people that can afford what we do.
Dennis Scully: So, do you have a lot of interior designer clients that are kind of tough?
Tyler Hays: No, most of them are great.
Dennis Scully: So, they're not the ones that being blacklisted. Who's being blacklisted?
Tyler Hays: We had a couple. You want their last names.
Dennis Scully: You can tell me in codes.
Tyler Hays: Stan Johnson.
Dennis Scully: So, when you say they're demanding ...
Tyler Hays: We've only have had a short list of a few people that copy our work. People have copied my work.
Dennis Scully: So, that's different there.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. Even well-known people.
Dennis Scully: Really?
Tyler Hays: Yeah.
Dennis Scully: Who have taken it to some other fabricator and tried to [crosstalk 00:57:19].
Tyler Hays: Yeah. They don't want, they'll buy these two and then they'll have two copied or something or another piece they didn't want to whatever. We've had people that just scream and can't stop screaming. I've been in a contract or an interior designer, what we're really good at it. I don't want to get our listeners in pressed. We're really good at understanding people's headaches, and we can take a beating.
Tyler Hays: But as soon as people just can't stop, they just can't be made happy after the 10th time you've ... then it's just like, "You should shop somewhere else, and we don't really want more business about that." But we do take really good ... listeners, if you're our client, you can scream, if we've made you're happy as long as you-
Dennis Scully: But no. I think that was always part of your reputation, that was [crosstalk 00:57:57].
Tyler Hays: But we just don't take abuse. Some people are just real assholes that can never be made happy and they get a prima donna. [inaudible 00:58:03] we'd make the best furniture in the world, that's my goal right and we're going to make the middle amount of mistakes which is every ... We're not we're not trying to be the best shippers, we take our deadline seriously.
Tyler Hays: I'll lose money to hit a deadline and we're the best at that. We still miss them sometimes if a roof caves in or truck get hit by a car though, the whole load of stuff was damaged, like shit happens. And if people scream at me for, I just tell people, I say, "Call us back when you've calmed down. We're really sorry, but we were hit by a car," that kind of stuff.
Dennis Scully: And how long does one of those spectacular dining tables take to make?
Tyler Hays: You can add it up. 100 bucks an hour Okay, you can figure it out. With certain machinery, we have certain machines that costs a quarter million dollar, the hourly rate on those is higher. But it's 50 to $350 an hour for a piece of furniture depending on what. If you're using an engineer on a $300,000 machine, you're 300 or 400 bucks an hour. But it's cheaper actually.
Dennis Scully: And how long do you tell someone they'll have to wait for that?
Tyler Hays: You were backed up about ... we try to have a lot of stuff in stock actually. We have more stuff in stock that I would admit on a podcast, I just did it. We have built stuff to stock a lot because a lot of people more and more especially with technology is an information. People just want to shut down. They don't enjoy the wait like they used to. People used to want to wait for quality and things. It's just a different world.
Dennis Scully: So, you found that's really changed?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, people want quality and they want good, but they're just too much noise in the world. I'm that way. I don't want to go to a car lot and think about it, I don't buy fancy cars, but I'm saying I want it, I want it now, I'm busy, and I'm willing to pay for it. So, we have a lot of stuff in stock more than people would assume. And then we're at 16 weeks, we tell but we never go over that. And there's always an option if you want something closer, there's always an option, it can be shipped tomorrow, roughly. So, almost in everything.
Tyler Hays: We had a client just the other day, called and, "We have a huge house we're doing. We're in a rush. Do you have stock furniture?" And I was like, "If you're somewhat flexible in sizes a little bit and colors, we could fill up a 10,000 square foot house tomorrow." We do that sometimes if people like this certain celebrity about a house, they don't really care. They just want to follow the [crosstalk 01:00:19] into the month.
Tyler Hays: And I don't blame them. Who wants to wait for nine months to get lied to about deadlines and stuff from ... they just want it done, and there's people that are like that, and we service that environment, that clientele really well. And we also have loaner furniture if people want stuff where you can come in and you want a $50,000 table, you want it. See if I can build you this. We have a loaner, beautiful table.
Dennis Scully: So, you to give them something for the time being?
Tyler Hays: Yeah. Helps a lot. And that's why we have the auction because some of that stuff gets around and gets used.
Dennis Scully: But people came to recognize the look and they wanted the look of BDDW and they didn't want to wait so you got smart and started to make some extras, right?
Tyler Hays: Yeah. Basically. And sometimes if it's for certain clients, somebody wants something, we build two of them just in case something gets damaged. Because, we take those deadlines really seriously. I figured out a formula that if we build two and something gets scratched, or danged, I can still ship and then you'll see those at the auction. Some clients call me he's like, "You're selling my same piece, it's customer's." Like, "Actually it's got a scratch on it and we built two just to make sure because you're our VIP client."
Tyler Hays: So, we don't wanna say, "We're almost done, sorry it's 12 weeks." Again, we do make mistakes and that happens sometime, but way less than most people. We also have drop deadlines, we'll get people and say if it's not, it's discounted heavily, which some places won't put in rubber. We'll like, "You'd be 30% off if it's over 16 weeks." That happens to, and sometimes we've given stuff literally away for free because it was 20 weeks. If it hits that certain point, and so ...
Dennis Scully: So you talked earlier about being annoyed with some people that were copying your things, and I don't blame you. Do you look around though and see a lot of people that are now doing things that you were doing years ago and that you really made famous? I think of the live edge table for example.
Tyler Hays: I mean Nakashima did that before, I did a different formula where we were chopping it up and being more reverent with that piece of wood. Yeah, there's some stuff that's like, there was 100% my invention that got copied directly from jerks. That's offensive. That I've inspired people to ... A client told me once that you took what Nakashima did, and you've advanced it, because I never said I invented the slab table by any means.
Tyler Hays: They were doing it in Japan way before all over the world. Big castle tables are made with big pieces of wood because ... But yeah, I did that wishbone base, was me. But there's bits of stuff that has been influenced by every ... I didn't invent everything that I do. But then there's some people that just copy. Like this detail on a sofa that I'm pointing at the sofa arm here-
Dennis Scully: That beautiful.
Tyler Hays: ... that like completely by a couple of people, just like come on. Sometimes it's super offensive. We go after them. Sometimes it's like, whatever, it's fine. I mean, it's like ... And then sometimes, I've seen people that have copied me, and then seeing their stuff get copied, which is kind of funny. If was a few things that people have influenced, and then I've seen their company got copied later by other stuff.
Tyler Hays: So, I definitely know that I see a language and stuff that I've influenced, and that's super flattering, I don't have ownership. My employees are actually more offended by that stuff than I am. There's a few times I see somebody literally copy my stuff and it's like, come on. It's one thing, I was influenced by people, there's people that influenced me, not directly that I can think of, but the stuff-
Dennis Scully: You seem to be marching to your own beat and your own creativity, is what's inspiring you. Can I you point to anything that's influencing you today or about where you're going?
Tyler Hays: I'm really into '70 stuff, I don't know like weird colors and stuff like that. But not really. I don't really look at designers per se, or contemporary stuff. I thump through magazines sometimes so I can get like, "I need to do an end table that's super big on something," but I don't really go, "I got to copy that detail."
Tyler Hays: I do fill up these little sketch books full of thousands of little sketches and stuff that I've always got plenty of designs I just can't get them build even in my workshop. But yes, stuff inspiring me is more ... I still look a lot of just antique stuff like Shaker Furniture has been inspiring ...
Tyler Hays: I don't look at these, I don't really look at much [inaudible 01:04:44]. I have so much stuff backed up over my head that I wanna see these days.
Dennis Scully: In your own head that you can't wait to do. So, as we wrap up our conversation. What is it that you, you're doing the brewery, you're doing M.Crow, you're doing the radio station which we didn't even get into in detail. You've got an outpost in Milan, and what's the thing that you're most excited about that you're working on for the future that you're laying the foundation for now?
Tyler Hays: As a product you mean?
Dennis Scully: Yeah, or the direction that you're moving in that you're most excited about. The tile stuff is fantastic and I know that that's something that you're focused on more. But ...
Tyler Hays: I think lately the tile has been great, both the BDDW, handmade super artistinal, wild clay that we dig, and then the production stuff with M.Crow. Ceramics as a medium, I've done it my whole life often on, but I'm really excited about the possibilities of doing that as the way it's done. All the stuff I get into, I end up building a machine being obsessed with the machinery and it's the process that's more interesting to me.
Tyler Hays: That and then the clothes been taking off. A buddy of mine went and we saved a vintage shuttle loom mill that's making fabric. So, I own part of that that is for making our own clothing, our own fabrics which is super fun to learn about. I've always been a fabric freak, collected fabric, but I've never been-
Dennis Scully: That's fun. So, where's that happening? Where's the fabric [crosstalk 01:06:22].
Tyler Hays: Rural Pennsylvania.
Dennis Scully: Rural Pennsylvania. Okay.
Tyler Hays: So, we're working on our own denim likes hyper artistinal denim. Some of the shirts that we're now is fabric we've literally woven. I get basic fabric structure, but it's a bit of an art to it. But I'm learning to figure out the looms and the whatnot. It's a production, it's like the old wood vintage shuttle loom super narrow. It's still in existence. So, it's a real gift to be able to work on that and doing these beautiful like Civil War fabrics. The guy that used to run, or still runs the replica, how do you call it? Old fabric replica stuff that we do. I'm sorry, I'm in the ...
Dennis Scully: No. So things in the archives that he would [crosstalk 01:07:04].
Tyler Hays: Yeah. So, he's a specialist in that. So, talking about the structure of the fabrics back in the day. So, we're like doing this crazy Valerie's that we literally make ourselves not with my hands but we're in charge of it. And that's super fun. That's just like who gets to do that? That's just like ... And I'm painting really, honestly for me, my painting and selling my work.
Dennis Scully: So, you're getting to do a lot of [crosstalk 01:07:26].
Tyler Hays: Yeah. Not a lot but I've always have my painting suit, I move it all the time, but I'm actually the day a week I paint and [crosstalk 01:07:33].
Dennis Scully: And where are we going to see your art? Here in the shop?
Tyler Hays: Yeah, I always have a couple to show around here.
Dennis Scully: Is this what I'm looking at now or things-
Tyler Hays: My wife's there, and a friend here, another one of mine down there. So, I do oil painting and I started BDDW back in the day because I was like, all right, I was selling paintings. I was just like, "I don't want to sell paintings. I'm wanna just give them away." So, I'd paint them, put them on the street. I'm going to start this company to pay my bills while I paint and give them away. I was like a dumb kid.
Tyler Hays: But, I started painting a lot now and that's super exciting. And I've got three kids who are nearly 10 and up, nine and up, and two of them are step kids okay. So, they're able to take care of themselves a lot. So, I have a little more free time to think and focus on me.
Dennis Scully: To focus on you, right.
Tyler Hays: A little me time. But I paint on Sundays in the studio and I'm loving that. That to me is, I guess it's like a product, but I've been selling quite a bit of it.
Dennis Scully: So, will you bring a lot of the art that you do into the shops and [crosstalk 01:08:30].
Tyler Hays: Yeah. Not super prolific. But, I'll bring them in [crosstalk 01:08:35].
Dennis Scully: And the jigsaw puzzle, we didn't even talk about [crosstalk 01:08:37].
Tyler Hays: Those are fun too. We're doing some really cool kitchen products right now. I go to work, I'm going to miss something, it's probably the most exciting. But yeah, the clothing and, we're doing our own painted fabrics that are just so good. We're doing these like murals with some of art is ... a lot of people I work with a super creative, and a lot of them are learning my ways and doing their ... they kind of come up with helping me with stuff so they can add their own influence on things and that's just super fun, and I don't have to do all of it or oversee all of it. That's really freeing to see. Maybe BDDW doesn't get close when I die if it has legs.
Dennis Scully: All right, so if we want to see all this, we need to come down to the Five Cross Bay Street, and it's a constant, ever evolving mix of what you're working on?
Tyler Hays: Very much constant and my new lighting is amazing that I'm doing. I'm missing a few things, a bunch that I [crosstalk 01:09:29] super exiting.
Dennis Scully: There are so many things that you're working on.
Tyler Hays: People like to say, "Do you sleep," and I'm like, "I just do stuff for like an hour, and an hour, and an hour, and an hour, and I go throughout the day and I really ... we literally are making music industry in the shop again. That's super exciting. Kind of like it's fun to produce heavy metal band. We have like a secret company inside the company [crosstalk 01:09:50].
Dennis Scully: That's heavy metal band. That's it?
Tyler Hays: It has a sound band and we're trying to take down BDDW. We have our own Xen, it's a wallet Xen, and you can order them, but you have to buy one of the wallets, and they don't really display them but you have to ask for them so nobody knows [crosstalk 01:10:02].
Dennis Scully: So, you have to nod ask for them? Wow, it's a lot of insight stuff.
Tyler Hays: So, we make really crappy stuff out of scraps, so, it's anti-craft company.
Dennis Scully: Got it.
Tyler Hays: So, we make really cheap crappy wallets, and you can buy them.
Dennis Scully: So, years ago, you wanted to bring the cool back to craft, right? Do you feel you've done that, do you feel you've made craft cool again?
Tyler Hays: Yes.
Dennis Scully: You feel that's part of your legacy that you've made?
Tyler Hays: I don't know. I remember we said that back in the day to my right hand buddy I was really gonna say, "We're going to put the cool back in craft," and if you're old enough to remember when craft meant grandpa's Caboose at the craft was bizarre. I mean, that was craft, or yarn that grandma would knit. That was the word craft. You didn't think about that, when I was a kid as it being like craftsmanship became like a cool thing.
Tyler Hays: I didn't do it. But we were certainly a part of that. We were directly there and deliberately trying to make ... well-made stuff wasn't that cool back in the '80s. It's like knowing where stuff was made wasn't that cool. I remember seeing a beautiful bowl that was at a cool hip in on the '80s like whatever good photography everything, and I turned this beautiful wooden bowl over, wasn't even beautiful.
Tyler Hays: It was a bad lacquered ash, and it was like made in the Philippines, and I was like, "I don't think anyone ever even cared. Like I kind of cared. I was like, "Who cares where this stuff is made? Don't people want to know? You don't know." I didn't know where to find a wood shop or production ceramic studio, just wasn't cool to do. And so, I was like interested in how things were made and where things are made.
Tyler Hays: So, I started to put that together in my head like, "I'm going to do this. I can do this because I care at least." And a lot of people totally care it's like, stores in Oregon, and the store [crosstalk 01:11:41].
Dennis Scully: Well, exactly. And now you're in the right place, right time. I mean everyone cares.
Tyler Hays: [crosstalk 01:11:45] for doing it. I remember the finals, we're trying to end this, but I remember back in the early 2000s right after 911. That's what it was because the whole political climate was ... If you're in New York. I put, I did add this at hand made American furniture, and we were more handmade back then.
Tyler Hays: And I remember a couple of friends gave me shit about it. Like, "What are you, like a patriot?" And I was like, "First of all," I was like, "Yes." But not in the sense that I'm not like ... I'm a super liberal guy. But, I'm a patriot. I think America is amazing. I was like, "I'm not anti ..." But back then, the climate was like, "What are you, American made Dutch? Come on." It wasn't cool.
Tyler Hays: Even in the late 90s and stuff like, that I remember putting that on, and I was like, "Well, we're gonna say that handmade American furniture. Believe me, I didn't get hate mail for it, but I guess a little people were just like, "What are you doing dude? That's kind of gross. It doesn't look cool."
Dennis Scully: Yeah, it's funny how that whole turned around and now ...
Tyler Hays: No. That turned around, now we took it off. I think it's extremely well made. We don't say it anymore, it's extremely well stuff. That was when the admin men of CNC and robots came along and I'm like, "I'll employ any method to make stuff the best." That's what it's about not about ... I don't mystify it. I just want really well engineered, well-crafted and sometimes machines can do a way better ... I mean, I can drive to Philly a lot better than I can walk.
Dennis Scully: Well, and CNC machines what they can do today.
Tyler Hays: Oh, totally. It's amazing and if you employ them right, and it's somebody who understands what they're doing with it, and the engineering and the chemistry and physics of what's going on, that's like, you can really spend your time on the stuff that matters way more, and can also have joinery that's like we couldn't even do before.
Tyler Hays: So, it's really changed the way we do stuff. We still do massive amounts of handwork, but only where it matters now.
Dennis Scully: Right, and where people can really see it and appreciate it.
Tyler Hays: Yeah. And where you need good joinery, let a robot do the joinery because they can do ... you can do stuff ... you can do it by habit, it takes so ... and no one wants to pay your 80 bucks an hour mechanics wages to do that stuff in furniture. So, we employ where it makes sense, and then double down on that at the end where we can do these finishes that are just like nobody in the industry just wants to spend the time really.
Tyler Hays: People know how to do it. They always ask people that, "How did you get that finished? I mean only way to do that is ..." and I'm just like, "Yeah," it's just five or six times, and it takes a lot more time than ... finishing your furniture is about half the money for us in general. So, if can build the piece then that's half of it. Finishing it is ...
Dennis Scully: Finishing it is half the cost.
Tyler Hays: Half the money in a $10,000 item is just that beautiful finish, is getting you to start with a piece of furniture, you gotta sand it and do it right. And we'd become experts at that process and done with the microscopes and the whole thing so we can pull it off more efficiently than anyone. And then we also have the machinery to do that and we can ...
Dennis Scully: Yeah. And that's part of what made you famous and what made BDDW sort of this cult-loved brand.
Tyler Hays: Those are very kind words.
Dennis Scully: Keep it up is what we have to say. So, thank you so much for letting me come and spend time with you. My guest has been Tyler Hays of BDDW. Thank you again for joining us. The show is Business of Home, and I'm Dennis Scully. If you like what you hear, please feel free to subscribe. Tell a friend about the show, and most of all, leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you again to our sponsor and our producers. You can find us at businessofhome.com, or on Facebook or Instagram. We'll see you next week.